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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

A federal judge struck down the mask mandate on planes and public transit.

WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Florida on Monday reduced the federal mask requirement on airplanes, trains, buses and other public transportation, less than a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended it to May 3. Was.

In a 59-page decision, former President Donald J. Trump’s appointee, Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizzell, overruled the mandate — which also applies to airports, train stations and other transportation hubs — on a number of grounds across the country, including the decision that the agency was in charge of the 1944 public. had exceeded its legal authority under the Health Services Act.

The Justice Department had no immediate comment on whether the Biden administration would appeal — and, if so, whether it would ask Judge Mizell or the appeals court to stay its decision pending any trial in order to enforce the rule. To be. A CDC spokesman declined to comment.

It was unclear whether airlines would continue to require passengers to wear masks without the rules. But last month, executives from major airlines, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, in a joint letter asked the Biden administration to phase out masks on planes and airports.

Nevertheless, the decision comes at a time when new coronavirus cases are again increasing rapidly. Last week, the CDC extended the mask rule to May 3, citing a willingness to assess the potential severity of the omicron subvariant called ba.2, which recently became the dominant variant in new US cases. On Monday, the city of Philadelphia reinstated a masking mandate in response, becoming the first major city to do so.

On Monday afternoon, Sarah Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, a union representing about 50,000 workers at 20 airlines, said in a statement that she was waiting for “more legal analysis on what this means” The minimum time it takes to implement and communicate new processes is 24 to 48 hours.

“We urge everyone to continue to practice patience, remain calm and follow the instructions of the crew members,” she said. “And we remind passengers that it is legally required to follow a crew member’s instructions, and that disruptive behavior has serious consequences because it puts everyone at risk.”

Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Tim Minton, which oversees New York City’s subways and some commuter trains arriving in the city, said Monday: “We are continuing to follow CDC guidelines and will review a Florida court order.” “

President Biden called on the CDC to issue a masked mandate for travelers shortly after his inauguration, and the agency did so on February 2, 2021. It extended that mandate several times, and in April 2022 the Health Freedom Defense Fund, a Wyoming-based advocacy group, filed a lawsuit challenging its legality.

Attempts to reach the group for comment on Monday were not immediately successful. But Judge Mizell largely accepted his arguments, ruling that the agency had exceeded the authority given to Congress to determine public health measures such as “sanitation,” adding that the power to clean up Property was limited – people were not required to take clean steps.

“If Congress intends this definition, the power given to the CDC would be breathtaking,” she wrote. “And it certainly won’t be limited to modest measures of ‘hygiene’ like a mask.”

If the government’s interpretation of the agency’s powers was accurate, he said, the CDC could require businesses to install air filtration systems, mandate that people take vaccines, or even “cough in the elbow.” , and a daily multivitamin”.

President Donald J. After Trump lost re-election, Judge Mizell was appointed to the bench in November 2021. A former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, she was 33 at the time, making her the youngest person Mr. Trump has been appointed as a lifelong judge; The American Bar Association declared him not eligible due to his lack of experience, but was confirmed on a party-line vote.

Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, said the Biden administration would have to appeal the decision if it wanted to continue with the mandate. He also defended the authority of the agency to issue a requirement for masks.

“This is, in my view, an example of a biased judge who seems to be knowingly ignorant of the law,” he said. “If ever there was an instance where CDC has authority to act, the classic case is to prevent interstate transmission of a dangerous infectious disease.”

Judge Mizell also blamed the agency for issuing the mandate under “emergency” procedures without delaying public comment about the motion – dismissing the idea that there was no time for it because the pandemic was already a major issue then. was a year old.

“CDC issued the mandate in February 2021, about two weeks after the President declared the mandate, 11 months after the President declared COVID-19 a national emergency, and about 13 months after the Secretary of Health and Human Services declared. Public health emergency,” she said. “This history suggests that the CDC itself did not find the passage of time particularly serious.”

Insisting that 11 months had passed since the “president” declared a national emergency, Judge Mizel did not address the fact that a different administration had just taken over.

As of Sunday, an average of more than 37,000 new cases were reported a day, according to the New York Times database, up 39 percent from two weeks ago. While this figure is far below the peak of the winter surge driven by the Omicron variant, experts believe that the new cases are declining rapidly with the rise of home testing.

On Sunday, Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the new White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said the CDC “had made it very clear that they needed 15 days to assess the impact of BA.2 on hospitalizations, deaths and deaths.” to see if there has been a substantial increase in serious illness.”

“My hope is that we’re going to gather that data and within a few weeks we’re going to make a more sustainable decision,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Judge Mizzell had a personal relationship with the Trump administration. She is married to Chad Mizell, who was a lawyer at the Trump White House. In 2019, the White House removed most of the top leadership of the Department of Homeland Security. As part of that shakeup, Mizell was installed as acting general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security, where she signed a restrictive new policy that made it harder for migrants to obtain asylum.

Noah Weiland, anna lawAnd Adele Hassan Contributed to reporting.

World Nation News Desk
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